For many people, a date in August had been looming. A date marking an event of history. Televisual history, at any rate. Said date does not mark a moon landing, a royal coronation or an election. Indeed, said event is not an actual episode of television. Instead, many people have been salivating at the prospect of discovering ‘just who will be the next to pretend to be an alien’. Such people, with no dysphemistic purpose intended, are known with furious pride as ‘Nerds’, or the more anglicised ‘Geeks’, and Who Are You Supposed To Be? celebrates them, particularly those of that most British persuasion: Whovians.
In what would seem odd provenance for a play rooted in the most British of cultural phenomena, Who Are You Supposed to Be is Australian in origin, both in writing and in this production company’s staging. However, the narrative itself is directed toward this apparent anachronism, seeing an Australian female superfan (a competent Jennifer Lusk, clad in an immaculate fifth Doctor costume) travel to fictional ‘Nerd-Vana’ Convention in London, where she meets a podcast presenter (A slightly shakier Cameron K McEwan), whom she engages in a series of fierce debates and a tentatively budding romance.
There is no sense that this company are not sufficiently knowledgeable in the field. The play is intensely heavily researched (without wishing to stereotype ‘geek’ culture, in a way even more meticulous than the atypical academic understanding and knowledge accrued about such things) and also delightfully consistent in its usage of this research. Rather than a ‘Big Bang Theory’ approach whereby clunky quotes are thrust in as punchlines, often at entirely inapposite moments, each character speaks from a solid standpoint and cites with hyper-specific detail.
This is not to say that such quotations are clamped down upon: rather these pithy, mirthful statements run rife throughout and build to an intense conclusion. Indeed, at one point during the play’s close, the dialogue consists solely of a spectacular fracas of high-brow nerdy references from a plethora of sources and eras. Many typical topics, particularly the possibility of a female Doctor and the ‘Political Correctness’ controversy it inspires are touched upon with a concise nuance.
This being said, the opening lines are clunky, given the aforementioned referential nature of the piece later on. Evidently somebody felt a ‘warming up’ period of exposition was required but this only renders the later elements more tortuous. Some of the usages are also a little formulaic; The Peter Capaldi reference everyone knew was coming almost drew groans with its ton-of-bricks subtlety and playing the entire Doctor Who theme between each scene (the 1963 ‘spooky’ original, of course) was perhaps a little excessive. However the end draws itself together neatly with a charming yet unsuspected resolution between the bickering bloggers.
Who Are You Supposed To Be is a strong production in a niche with so many tropes it is difficult to innovate, but perhaps one whose niche is too narrow even within a subculture to invigorate a more generalised audience.